Hundreds of people celebrate the summer solstice at Stonehenge after the historic site was defaced by Just Stop Oil eco-fanatics

Hundreds of people have gathered to celebrate the summer solstice at Stonehenge – just 24 hours after the historic site was defaced by Just Stop Oil.

In a tradition spanning thousands of years, druids and pagans joined a colourful mix of sun worshippers to mark the longest day of the year at the ancient neolithic site in Wiltshire.

Stonehenge is a monument built on the alignment of the midsummer sunrise and the midwinter sunset. 

On the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the Stone Circle. Rays of sunlight are then channelled into the centre of the monument. 

It is believed that solstices have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years – any many people travel to the ancient site from around the world. The word solstice is derived from the Latin words sol – ‘sun’ – and sistere – ‘stand still’.

Hundreds of visitors were seen walking down to Stonehenge as they enjoyed a stunning sunset in the stone circle. One couple even got married to mark the special evening – and sealed the moment with a kiss as the crowds cheered.

Revellers enjoy the summer solstice celebration at Stonehenge as the sun sets beneath the stones

Hundreds of sun worshippers enjoyed a balmy evening at Stonehenge to mark the solstice

Hundreds of sun worshippers enjoyed a balmy evening at Stonehenge to mark the solstice

Hundreds of people gather inside the stones - including families with young children on their shoulders

Hundreds of people gather inside the stones – including families with young children on their shoulders

In a tradition spanning thousands of years, druids and pagans joined a colourful mix of sun worshippers

In a tradition spanning thousands of years, druids and pagans joined a colourful mix of sun worshippers

This year's solstice comes just 24 hours after Just Stop Oil shamelessly desecrated the historic site

This year’s solstice comes just 24 hours after Just Stop Oil shamelessly desecrated the historic site

Crowds greeted the moment the sun went down and many will wait for the sun to rise again.

The solstice officials marks the beginning of the astronomical summer – and this year fell on June 20. It will bring longer days with brighter evenings for us all. 

This year’s solstice at Stonehenge comes after the historic site was desecrated by Just Stop Oil eco-protesters with orange cornflour on Wednesday.

A 73-year-old man and 21-year-old woman were released on bail yesterday after being arrested a day earlier on suspicion of criminal damage, damaging an ancient monument and deterring a person from engaging in a lawful activity.

Just Stop Oil sparked a major backlash after releasing footage of the eco-clowns blasting orange from a fire extinguisher at one of the vertical stones.

People gathered at the site could be heard yelling ‘stop’ and one person intervened, running up to serial eco-activist Rajan Naidu and grabbing his arm. As the person struggled to pull him away from the monument, another man joined the tussle and and wrestled the paint can free.

The second protester, identified as Oxford University student Niamh Lynch, 21, managed to spray three stones before she was stopped.

Just Stop Oil said the paint was made of cornstarch and would dissolve in the rain.

Workers cleaned the stones and the roughly 4,500-year-old monument was visibly undamaged, said Nick Merriman, the chief executive of English Heritage, yesterday.

A woman puts her hand on the ancient rocks on Thursday evening

A woman puts her hand on the ancient rocks on Thursday evening

Revellers gather at Stonehenge, Wiltshire, the evening before the summer solstice

Revellers gather at Stonehenge, Wiltshire, the evening before the summer solstice

Thousands of people across the globe usually gather at Stonehenge for the solstice

Thousands of people across the globe usually gather at Stonehenge for the solstice  

A woman takes a photo while sitting on a friend's shoulders at Stonehenge

A woman takes a photo while sitting on a friend’s shoulders at Stonehenge

Walter Ross marries Laura Cummings as the sun sets at Stonehenge

Walter Ross marries Laura Cummings as the sun sets at Stonehenge

The married couple share a kiss as others cheer and take photos

The married couple share a kiss as others cheer and take photos

Summer solstice celebration at Stonehenge as the sun sets

Summer solstice celebration at Stonehenge as the sun sets

Revellers watch the sun set at Stonehenge on Thursday evening

Revellers watch the sun set at Stonehenge on Thursday evening

People gather during sunset at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, as they wait to welcome in the Summer Solstice

People gather during sunset at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, as they wait to welcome in the Summer Solstice

On the solstice, the sun rises behind the entrance to the stone circle, and rays of light are channelled into the centre of the monument

On the solstice, the sun rises behind the entrance to the stone circle, and rays of light are channelled into the centre of the monument

A woman raises her arms as the sun sets at Stonehenge

A woman raises her arms as the sun sets at Stonehenge

‘It’s difficult to understand and we’re deeply saddened,’ Mr Merriman told BBC Radio 4. ‘It’s vandalism to one of the world’s most celebrated ancient monuments.’

Mr Merriman said experts cleaned the orange powder from the stones because they were concerned about how it might react to water.

The Stonehenge demonstration was swiftly condemned by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who called it a ‘disgraceful act of vandalism.’ 

His main opponent in the election next month, Labour leader Keir Starmer, called the group ‘pathetic’ and said the damage was ‘outrageous.’

Just Stop Oil sparked further anger when an activist played down the stunt, claiming it was ‘a bit of orange dust on a rock’. 

When the sun went down, the moon was clearly visible

When the sun went down, the moon was clearly visible

People gather during sunset at Stonehenge in Wiltshire

People gather during sunset at Stonehenge in Wiltshire

Visitors have their photo taken as the walk to the stones at Stonehenge

Visitors have their photo taken as the walk to the stones at Stonehenge

Hundreds of sun worshippers walk down to Stonehenge together

Hundreds of sun worshippers walk down to Stonehenge together

Just Stop Oil supporter Ben Larsen, 26, from the Wirral, who has previously been convicted of traffic disruption, tried to justify their actions.

During an interview on Sky News, presenter Matt Barbet asked him: ‘Why these tactics in particular, which for the most part amount to criminal damage?’

And Larsen responded: ‘Well you can call them criminal damage if you like, it’s a bit of orange dust on a rock that’s weathered 5,000 years of British weather.’

Barbet then said: ‘Now come on, that’s disingenuous. It’s not a rock, it’s an ancient monument that’s a Unesco world heritage site.’ 

But Larsen replied: ‘It’s a beautiful ancient monument but this is orange dust. It’s orange dust on stone. All that we need to do is wait for it to rain and all this will be washed off.

‘And these have been the 18 wettest months on record. So we’re not going to have to wait very long even. It’s unwise to get hung up on tactics.’

The group struck again Friday when it took credit for spray painting private jets at Stansted Airport.

Jennifer Kowalski, 28, and Cole Macdonald, 22, were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage after gaining access to the airfield and damaging the private jets.

Just Stop Oil said pop star Taylor Swift’s jet had landed at Stansted only hours before, but MailOnline can confirm that her plane was not one of the two targeted.

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